The Introduction of Tiki

tiki, 1960s, baby name, television
The schooner Tiki

In the 1950s and ’60s, Tiki culture — including Tiki bars — were all the rage in the United States. Even Disneyland got in on the action, introducing the Enchanted Tiki Room in 1963.

So it’s not terribly surprising the that the baby name Tiki emerged in the SSA data in the early 1960s:

  • 1964: 12 baby girls named Tiki
  • 1963: 9 baby girls named Tiki
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Tiki
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 15 baby girls named Tiki [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

But that rather impressive 1960 debut — and subsequent drop-off a year later– suggests that a specific event kicked off the initial usage of Tiki.

I’ve got two theories on this one.

First is the Hawaiian Eye episode “Fatal Cruise,” which aired in February of 1960 and featured actress Linda Lawson as a character named Tiki.

Second is the show Adventures in Paradise, in which the main character, Capt. Adam Troy, travels around the South Pacific on a schooner called the Tiki.

(Adventures in Paradise, which kicked off the names Sondi and Tiare, was created by writer James Michener, who was behind the debuts of Sayonara and Kerith.)

The first theory makes the most sense, because Hawaiian Eye associated the name with a (very pretty) human. But I don’t think we can discount the second theory, because Adventures in Paradise consistently presented “Tiki” as a name…even if it was just the name of a boat.

So where does the word tiki come from? It was used in the Marquesas and in New Zealand to refer to any carving with human features. (The equivalent word in Hawaiian is ki’i and in Tahitian is ti’i.) Originally, though, Tiki was a specific mythological figure: “the Polynesian Adam, the creator of man…sort of half-man and half-god.”

What are your thoughts on Tiki as a baby name?

Sources: Fatal Cruise, Hawaiian Eye – IMDb, Adventures in Paradise – Fifties Web, Tiki Hangover: Unearthing the False Idols of America’s South Seas Fantasy

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